News Round-Up: Nov/Dec 2009

4 January 2010

Latin Touch: Rio de Janeiro's Olympic organisers are looking to forge links with London 2012 organisers

Brazil nuts about London

Rio de Janeiro is hoping that construction companies involved in London 2012 will be a source of consultancy advice and investment as the city gears up to host the 2016 Olympics, writes Stephen Cousins.

A spokesperson for Rio’s offi cial Olympic organising committee said the country wants to start a dialogue with offi cials and companies working on London’s Olympic Park, in the same way as London built up contacts with Beijing.

“The Rio organising committee is very tuned in to what’s happening in the UK,” said the spokesperson. “President Lula and the bid committee have made visits the UK and are particularly interested in the legacy aspect of London 2012, which Rio plans to emulate.

“The effort to regenerate east London also mirrors Rio’s plans to build its Olympic Village in the redeveloping Barra district.”

The Olympic Delivery Authority also plans to bring Rio’s decision makers and UK firms together at the London 2012 site. “In the coming months we will be organising visits to the Olympic Park for key members of the Rio committee, and that is likely to involve meetings with UK companies,” said a spokesman. The Rio games’ organisers are also planning to set up a foreign direct investment agency similar to Think London, which has helped foreign businesses establish themselves in the capital.

Construction fi rms eager to get a head start on Brazil’s sports-related spending boom can book their place on a UK Trade & Investment trade mission to S‹o Paulo, between 15 and 20 November.

“Delivering Major Sporting Events” is an opportunity for British companies to meet with, and sell products, services and expertise to, the organisers and host city representatives of the 2014 Soccer World Cup, as well as investigate possibilities in anticipation of Rio 2016. 

UKTI, in a report on Brazil published last month, estimates that some 80 projects will be required to help it host the two events. Investment in infrastructure for 2014 alone is likely to be in the region of £10bn to £30bn, which includes £1.5bn to build and modernise 12 stadiums, plus £1.4bn to expand and modernise airports across the country and £10bn investment in transport infrastructure.

Antarctica - ice work if you can get it

Seven plumbers, six carpenters, six electricians and a groundworker are on their way to work at British research stations in Antarctica.

The group has been successful in the biggest-ever construction trades recruitment drive run by the British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s environmental research agency in Antarctica. Some will be working over the Antarctic summer, others will stay on 18-month contracts.

“The Antarctic summer is our winter. You can get a lot of work done in 24-hour daylight so we can make a big push on maintenance and construction,” said spokeswoman Linda Capper.

The BAS is likely to be recruiting to fill further vacancies in spring 2010.

Andrew Wolstenholme

Q&A: Andrew Wolstenholme

Andrew Wolstenholme, managing director of Balfour Beatty Management, chaired the Constructing Excellence Review Team that wrote Never Waste a Good Crisis, a review of progress made since Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction was published in 1998.

How did the Review Team operate?
We had consultants, academics, and people with contracting backgrounds. We looked at 10 years of KPIs from demonstration projects, 10 years of reports on different aspects of the problem. And nearly 1,000 industry professionals completed our survey.

What are the main themes of the report?
If you took 100 projects and most of them were improving, then I wouldn’t have a job to do. But there were four main blockers: the economic environment and recession; the capability of the industry; the delivery model; and the structure of the industry.

Can the industry change gear in a recession?
Clients are in survival mode and the government is under pressure to cut public spending. We need to look long term and incentivise the supply chain to make innovations and look long term, and then everyone will stay in the game.

You’re quite critical about university courses. Why?
We train people at university with a technical degree, then ask them to solve business problems. They’re not prepared. This built environment is not about building buildings and leaving it – it’s about building an asset for 50 years that gives you pay back. You need leaders who can see that bigger picture and can run companies that way.

What’s your message to institutions, such as the CIOB?
We have too many people in too many silos and we don’t have a clear message about how all this adds up. The institutions’ voices need to be more joined up. Who should read this report? No one should read this report and think “this doesn’t involve me”. There are quick wins that could make a difference tomorrow, and there are some bigger themes that need to be owned by parts of the industry.

CDM 2007 struggles as stress rises

THE CONSTRUCTION Design and Management 2007 (CDM 2007) regulations are failing to raise health and safety standards across the board, according to a CIOB online survey on health and safety. The survey also found that work-related stress has increased since the recession began.

Of the 1,260 members who responded, 29% said CDM 2007 had had very little impact on how they dealt with health and safety, and 7% said it had none. The CDM Regulations were revised in April 2007, placing new duties on clients, designers and contractors and handing more power to a CDM co-ordinator.

Howard Prosser, chair of the CIOB health and safety advisory committee, says the results are a concern. “I suspect that more needs to be done to help designers understand CDM 2007. There may also be a communication issue between the various professionals on projects so there needs to be more dialogue.”

Vince Busk, head of health and safety at contractor ISG, agrees: “I operate in the CDM co-ordinator role, and I find that designers, architects and clients still don’t understand what their responsibilities are. Poor attention to safety at the design stage is resulting in building maintenance problems and problems with construction.” 

Shaun Davis, health and safety director at Rok, says: “We shouldn’t feel afraid to challenge designers and clients to remind them of their responsibilities under CDM. I’d like to see more discussion between duty holders so we can iron out oversights at an early stage,” he argues.

The survey also draws attention to high levels of stress in the industry. A total of 62% of respondents said they suffered stress from their job demands, while 42% said they would carry on at work even if a GP diagnosed them with stress.

“People are more stressed about losing their jobs, but also reluctant to take time off or admit to stress in case it endangers their employment, says Prosser. ”It’s also perhaps an indication of the macho attitude that still pervades building sites.”

On a more positive note, 85% of respondents said the recession had not affected levels of health and safety compliance in their companies, while 36% said their firm had increased spending on health and safety in the past 12 months.

Access Abu Dhabi

A business support service for southeast-based contractors and construction consultants looking to break into new markets has opened a new office in Abu Dhabi.

The South East Centre for the Built Environment opened its first overseas office in Libya six months ago, and is now helping 40 businesses to access opportunities there.

“Libya has got off to a roaring success, and we hope that Abu Dhabi will achieve the same success,” says John Ellis, business development director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Abu Dhabi office will act as an “incubation” service for companies in the early stages of exploring the market.

It will help firms to identify potential clients or joint venture partners, and to arrange premises, visas and local staff. It will also support UK businesses that already have a presence in these markets, but would benefit from business support.

Although most of its Libyan clients are architects, engineering and surveying consultancies, Ellis says SECBE is keen to work with companies offering construction and project management services. “In both countries, there’s a real desire to have British contractors. They have a lot of credibility and offer high levels of service.

“To be effective they would probably have to partner up with a local, and SECBE can also assist with this.”

SECBE is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the South East of England Development Agency (SEEDA) and chaired by Bob Heathfield, PPCIOB.

The two organisation s undertook research to identify overseas markets where there was most opportunity for British companies in the construction sector to take market share, and found that Libya and Abu Dhabi came top of the list. SECBE is now considering offering a similar service in Qatar.

Industry job losses 50% higher than banking

Construction has borne the brunt of UK job losses during the economic downturn, and redundancies are likely to escalate unless the government maintains levels of investment, writes Stephen Cousins.

That’s the gloomy conclusion of a report commissioned jointly by the UK Contractors Group (UKCG) and the CBI construction group argues.

The report, prepared by independent research consultancy LEK using Office of National Statistics data, shows that in the second quarter of 2009 construction redundancies averaged 2.2 per 100 employees, compared with 1.2 in manufacturing and 1.2 in financial sectors.

It also shows that construction has had the greatest redundancy rate since the start of the recession, with 28 per 1,000 employees losing their jobs – 40% higher than manufacturing and 50% greater than the financial and business services sectors.

“I’m not surprised by the fi gures,” said Stephen Ratcliffe, director of the UKCG. 

“Anecdotal evidence from our members indicated redundancies were accelerating and the cancellation of major projects like those in the LSC colleges programme, plus a fall in private commercial demand, have contributed to a drop in construction output. It certainly runs contrary to reports that we’re heading for a recovery.” 

Andrew Bredin, managing director of recruitment firm Hays Construction, says that the majority of redundancies have been made in companies exposed to the private sector.

“Public sector funding has so far remained relatively secure and has created jobs on major infrastructure projects. In terms of redundancies, site managers, architects and quantity surveyors have been some of the worst affected, with maintenance workers faring better.”

But Bredin has seen hopeful signs in some quarters. “Architectural practices and housebuilders are beginning to recruit again, albeit slowly,” he says.

The UKCG and CBI now plan to use the LEK report to lobby all government and opposition parties to maintain future levels of capital spending on construction.

The report also claims that every £1 invested in the industry can generate a £2.84 increase in GDP.

“We’re hoping to infl uence spending plans outlined in the pre-budget report. Decision makers need to understand that cutting spending on infrastructure might seem like an easy option, but the data shows the economic consequences could be disastrous,” adds Ratcliffe.

Management bible tackles sustainability

The Code of Practice for Project Management has been updated with new guidance on sustainability, e-procurement and project communications.

The fourth edition of the Code, intended as a key reference text for clients, contractors and professionals, has a major new focus is the assimilation of sustainability at every level within construction projects.

Readers can also find guidance on drawing up a communications plan for a project, including a protocol for how team members should communicate.

New sections on IT include guidance on electronic procurement, plus tips on the use of Building Information

Modelling (BIM) software. The Code is available for £44.99 (RRP £49.99) if ordered before 5 January from

China stars named

Two Chinese medalists joined the line-up of award winners at last month’s Construction Manager of the Year Awards (CMYA), recognised for their outstanding efforts in co-ordinating rebuilding work in China following 2008’s devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, central China.

Yu Yong, vice president of CIOB China, was awarded a medal by President Li Shirong, who has introduced the president’s special medals to recognise expertise among the Institute’s overseas membership. Dr Raymond Ho FCIOB was unable to attend the event, but received his medal in Hong Kong.

Speaking before the event, President Li told CM: “The earthquake rebuilding work is an amazing project involving hundreds of dedicated people and we thought these medals would be a special way to draw attention to it.

“I always admired the CMYA as it recognises excellence in the industry and this is a first attempt to include people overseas. In future we expect to open the international award up to other countries, including South Africa, India and the Middle East,” she concluded.

The winners were selected by President Li from a shortlist of seven nominated by Chinese members.

Russia latest to adopt BRE's green standard

The BRE has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Green Building Council to develop Russia’s version of the BREEAM standard. It is the latest evidence that the UK sustainability assessment is being adopted across continental Europe.

Developers can already have their buildings assessed under BREEAM Europe, written in English with appendices tailored to each country. But the Dutch Green Building Council has now launched BREEAM Netherlands and an agreement is in place to develop a Spanish version.

BRE has also signed an agreement to work with France’s Centre Scientifique et Technique du B‰timent to align the BRE assessmnent with its HQE standard (Haute QualitŽ Environnementale).

According to Simon Guy, head of marketing at BRE Global, the move towards using BREEAM as a basis for a Europe-wide assessment system is being driven by multinational developers that want a common benchmark for all their European buildings.

“There’s been a lot of demand from Europe, particularly developers that want a common standard based on BREEAM,” says Guy. “Initially it’s been private sector driven, but European regional governments are also showing interest.”

Guy added that the adoption of a UK standard was also good news for UK-based construction consultants working in Europe. “There are 350 BREEAM International assessors working in Europe, and a lot are based in the European offices of British firms.”

David Lawrence MCIOB, European director for planning and construction at developer AIG Lincoln, worked on the development of the BREEAM Europe certification system. “Developers want to make sure they can benchmark their own buildings, as do pension funds and other investors,” he said. “It’s especially important in eastern Europe, where building standards are lower.”

BRE is also a founder member of the International Sustainability Alliance, which will work with national Green Building Councils to develop national variants of BREEAM.

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